Hackers hit global telcos in espionage campaign: cyber research firm

Hackers compromised companies in more than 30 countries and aimed to gather information on individuals in government, law-enforcement and politics. (Reuters)
Updated 25 June 2019
0

Hackers hit global telcos in espionage campaign: cyber research firm

  • Attackers compromised companies in more than 30 countries
  • Multiple tools used by the attackers had previously been used by a Chinese hacking group known as APT10

TEL AVIV: Hackers have broken into the systems of more than a dozen global telecoms companies and taken large amounts of personal and corporate data, researchers from a cybersecurity company said on Tuesday, identifying links to previous Chinese cyber-espionage campaigns.
Investigators at US-Israeli cybersecurity firm Cybereason said the attackers compromised companies in more than 30 countries and aimed to gather information on individuals in government, law-enforcement and politics.
The hackers also used tools linked to other attacks attributed to Beijing by the United States and its Western allies, said Lior Div, chief executive of Cybereason.
“For this level of sophistication, it’s not a criminal group. It is a government that has capabilities that can do this kind of attack,” he told Reuters.
A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said he was not aware of the report, but added “we would never allow anyone to engage in such activities on Chinese soil or using Chinese infrastructure.”
Cybereason declined to name the companies affected or the countries they operate in, but people familiar with Chinese hacking operations said Beijing was increasingly targeting telcos in Western Europe.
Western countries have moved to call out Beijing for its actions in cyberspace, warning that Chinese hackers have compromised companies and government agencies around the world to steal valuable commercial secrets and personal data for espionage purposes.
Div said this latest campaign, which his team uncovered over the last nine months, compromised the internal IT network of some of those targeted, allowing the attackers to customize the infrastructure and steal vast amounts of data.
In some instances, they managed to compromise a target’s entire active directory, giving them access to every username and password in the organization. They also got hold of personal data, including billing information and call records, Cybereason said in a blog post.
“They built a perfect espionage environment,” said Div, a former commander in Israel’s military intelligence unit 8200. “They could grab information as they please on the targets that they are interested in.”
Cybereason said multiple tools used by the attackers had previously been used by a Chinese hacking group known as APT10.
The United States indicted two alleged members of APT10 in December and joined other Western countries in denouncing the group’s attacks on global technology service providers to steal intellectual property from their clients.
The company said on previous occasions it had identified attacks it suspected had come from China or Iran but it was never certain enough to name these countries.
Cybereason said: “This time as opposed to in the past we are sure enough to say that the attack originated in China.”
“We managed to find not just one piece of software, we managed to find more than five different tools that this specific group used,” Div said.


Scientists close in on blood test for Alzheimer’s

In this July 9, 2019 photo, Dr. Jori Fleisher, neurologist, examines Thomas Doyle, 66, at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. (AP)
Updated 16 July 2019
0

Scientists close in on blood test for Alzheimer’s

  • One of the experimental blood tests measures abnormal versions of the protein that forms the plaques in the brain that are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s

LOS ANGELES: Scientists are closing in on a long-sought goal — a blood test to screen people for possible signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
On Monday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, half a dozen research groups gave new results on various experimental tests, including one that seems 88% accurate at indicating Alzheimer’s risk.
Doctors are hoping for something to use during routine exams, where most dementia symptoms are evaluated, to gauge who needs more extensive testing. Current tools such as brain scans and spinal fluid tests are too expensive or impractical for regular check-ups.
“We need something quicker and dirtier. It doesn’t have to be perfect” to be useful for screening, said Maria Carrillo, the Alzheimer’s Association’s chief science officer.
Dr. Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, called the new results “very promising” and said blood tests soon will be used to choose and monitor people for federally funded studies, though it will take a little longer to establish their value in routine medical care.
“In the past year we’ve seen a dramatic acceleration in progress” on these tests, he said. “This has happened at a pace that is far faster than any of us would have expected.”
It can’t come too soon for patients like Tom Doyle, a 66-year-old former university professor from Chicago who has had two spinal fluid tests since developing memory problems four years ago. First he was told he didn’t have Alzheimer’s, then that he did. He ultimately was diagnosed with different problems — Lewy body dementia with Parkinson’s.
“They probably could have diagnosed me years ago accurately if they had had a blood test,” said Doyle, who represents patients on the Alzheimer’s Association’s board.
About 50 million people worldwide have dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the most common form. There is no cure; current medicines just temporarily ease symptoms. Dozens of hoped-for treatments have failed. Doctors think studies may have enrolled people after too much brain damage had occurred and included too many people with problems other than Alzheimer’s.
A blood test — rather than subjective estimates of thinking skills — could get the right people into studies sooner.

One of the experimental blood tests measures abnormal versions of the protein that forms the plaques in the brain that are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s. Last year, Japanese researchers published a study of it and on Monday they gave results from validation testing on 201 people with Alzheimer’s, other types of dementia, mild impairment or no symptoms.
The blood test results closely matched those from the top tests used now — three types of brain scans and a mental assessment exam, said Dr. Akinori Nakamura of the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology in Obu, Japan. The test correctly identified 92% of people who had Alzheimer’s and correctly ruled out 85% who did not have it, for an overall accuracy of 88%.
Shimadzu Corp. has rights to the test and is working to commercialize it, Nakamura said.
Another experimental test looks at neurofilament light, a protein that’s a marker of nerve damage. Abdul Hye of King’s College London gave results of a study comparing blood levels of it in 2,300 people with various neurological conditions — Alzheimer’s, other dementias, Parkinson’s, depression, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease — plus healthy folks for comparison.
Levels were significantly higher in eight conditions, and only 2% of healthy folks were above a threshold they set for raising concern. The test doesn’t reveal which disorder someone has, but it may help rule one out when symptoms may be psychological or due to other problems.
Later at the conference, Dr. Randall Bateman of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis will give new results on a blood test he helped develop that the university has patented and licensed to C2N Diagnostics, a company he co-founded. Like the Japanese test, it measures the abnormal Alzheimer protein, and the new results will show how well the test reflects what brain scans show on nearly 500 people.
“Everyone’s finding the same thing ... the results are remarkably similar across countries, across techniques,” said Bateman, whose work is supported by the US government and the Alzheimer’s Association. He estimates a screening test could be as close as three years away.
What good will that do without a cure?
An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll last year found that most Americans would want to know if they carried a gene tied to a disease even if it was incurable.
“What people want most of all is a diagnosis” if they’re having symptoms, said Jonathan Schott of University College London. “What we don’t like is not knowing what’s going on.”